BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    

                          SENATE COMMITTEE ON EDUCATION
                               Gloria Romero, Chair
                            2009-2010 Regular Session

          BILL NO:       AB 544
          AUTHOR:        Coto
          AMENDED:       May 13, 2009
          FISCAL COMM:   Yes            HEARING DATE:  July 1, 2009
          URGENCY:       No             CONSULTANT:Beth Graybill

           SUBJECT  :  Teacher credentialing:  American Indian Languages.

          This bill establishes the American Indian languages  
          credential that will authorize people fluent in American  
          Indian languages to teach those languages in public schools.


          Existing law authorizes the Commission on Teacher  
          Credentialing (CTC) to establish and implement guidelines for  
          alternative assessments for languages other than English  
          performed by organizations that are experts in the language  
          and culture assessed.  

          The Native American Languages Act of 1990 states it is the  
          policy of the United States to "allow exceptions to teacher  
          certification requirements for Federal programs and programs  
          funded in whole or in part by the Federal government, for  
          instruction in Native American languages when such teacher  
          certification requirements hinder the employment of qualified  
          teachers who teach Native American languages, and to  
          encourage State and territorial governments to make similar  


           This bill  :

          1)   Requires the CTC, upon the recommendation of a tribal  
               government of a federally recognized Indian tribe in  
               California, to issue an American Indian languages  
               credential to candidates who have met the following  


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               a)        Demonstrated fluency in that tribe's language  
                    based on an assessment, as specified.  

               b)        Successful completion of a criminal background  

               c)        Submits an application, credential fee, and  
                    recommendation for the credential to the CTC  
                    through the federally recognized Indian tribe.  

          2)   Prohibits the holder of an American Indian languages  
               credential, who does not also have a valid teaching  
               credential issued by the Commission on Teacher  
               Credentialing (CTC), from teaching any subject other  
               than the American Indian language for which he or she is  

          3)   Specifies that the American Indian languages credential  
               shall be issued initially for a two-year period and may  
               be renewed for an additional three-year period, after  
               which time, the candidate is eligible, upon  
               recommendation of the tribal government in consultation  
               with the applicant's public school employer, for a clear  
               teaching credential for the specified language.  

          4)   Encourages each federally recognized American Indian  
               tribe to develop a written and oral assessment and  
               specifies that in developing the assessment, an Indian  
               tribe should determine: 

               a)        Which dialects will be included in the  

               b)        Whether the tribe will standardize its writing  

               c)        The standard of knowledge and fluency required  
                    to qualify for the credential; and,  

               d)        The standards for effective teaching methods  
                    to be evaluated in the classroom.  

          5)   Requires a tribe recommending a candidate for the  
               American Indian languages credential to develop and  
               administer a technical assistance program that is  
               provided by other teachers credentialed in an American  
               Indian language, as specified.  


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          6)   Requires school personnel responsible for evaluating  
               teachers to provide American Indian languages credential  
               holders with information on the evaluation process and  
               the California Standards for the Teaching Profession.  

          7)   Makes findings and declarations regarding the importance  
               of preserving American Indian languages as part of our  
               national heritage; and, that teaching American Indian  
               languages is essential to the education of American  
               Indian children.  

           STAFF COMMENTS  

           1.   Heritage language instruction  .  The CTC issues single  
               subject teaching credentials authorizing the instruction  
               of Languages Other than English (LOTE) in various  
               different languages.  Current law requires teachers who  
               earn this credential to meet the following requirements:  

               a)        Possession of a bachelor's degree from a  
                    regionally accredited institution of higher  

               b)        Demonstration of subject matter competency by  
                    completing a CTC-approved undergraduate program in  
                    the language or by passing a CTC-approved  
                    examination that assesses the candidate's knowledge  
                    and proficiency in that language.  

               c)        Completion of a teacher preparation program,  

               d)        Passage of a criminal and background check.  

               Because there are no undergraduate programs or  
               assessments available for many of less commonly taught  
               languages, the Commission on Teacher Credentialing (CTC)  
               has adopted alternative assessment options to enable  
               individuals who want to teach these languages to meet  
               the subject matter competency requirement.  While CTC  
               has an option for American Indian languages that  
               includes a locally developed and administered language  
               assessment process, candidates who pursue a single  
               subject Languages Other than English (LOTE) credential  
               in Native American languages must still meet the  


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               remaining credential requirements.  

               Unlike many heritage and immigrant languages, where the  
               language is still spoken in the "old country", the  
               dialects and languages of many American Indian  
               communities reside with elderly tribal members who  
               learned their language from their parents and  
               grandparents 60 or 70 years ago.  Because of their  
               limited access to education, few of these fluent  
               speakers of tribal languages meet or would be able to  
               complete the education requirements necessary for the  
               standard single subject LOTE teaching credential.  The  
               sponsors of this bill contend that without a way for  
               children to learn from these elders, many of these  
               tribal languages could be lost over the next few years.   
               To the extent that this bill enables American Indian  
               children to learn their tribal language in public  
               schools, this bill may help preserve and revitalize  
               these languages.  

               This bill removes barriers by authorizing the CTC to  
               issue a credential specific to the instruction of  
               American Indian languages and allowing tribes to  
               establish the proficiency requirements for that  
               credential through their own written and oral  
               assessments.  In so doing, this bill will make it easier  
               for American Indian children to learn their native  
               tribal language, regardless of the school they attend.  

           2.   What do other states do  ?  At least 16 states have  
               developed policies to allow Native American language  
               teachers to teach in public schools.  Twelve of those  
               states involve tribes in the process of certifying,  
               licensing, or endorsing the teachers of Indian languages  
               for services in state public schools.  This bill is  
               consistent with that approach by requiring the CTC to  
               issue upon the recommendation of the tribal government.   

           3.   Highly qualified teachers  .  The No Child Left Behind Act  
               (NCLB) requires all students to be taught by highly  
               qualified teachers.  In order to be highly qualified  
               under NCLB, teachers must have a bachelor's degree, full  
               state certification or licensure, and must demonstrate  
               subject matter competency.  To demonstrate subject  
               matter competency, single subject credential candidates  
               must have either a major in the subject they teach,  


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               credits equivalent to a major in the subject, or must  
               pass a state-developed subject matter test.  Because  
               foreign language courses help students meet requirements  
               for high school graduation and college admission, the  
               highly qualified teacher requirement extends to teachers  
               of languages other than English.  It is unclear whether  
               American Indian languages credential holders will be  
               considered highly qualified as defined by No Child Left  
               Behind Act (NCLB).  The Native American Languages Act  
               allows exceptions to teacher certification requirements  
               for instruction in American Indian languages, while NCLB  
               does not clearly exempt teachers of American Indian  
               languages or tribes from the highly qualified  

           4.   Technical Assistance  .  It may not be possible,  
               especially initially, for a recommending tribe to  
               provide a technical assistance program that is offered  
               by American Indian Languages credential holders with  
               three or more years of teaching experience.  Staff  
               recommends this section of the bill be amended to  
               specify that  whenever possible  , the program should be  
               provided by teachers credentialed in an American Indian  
               language who have three or more years of teaching  

           5.   Fiscal impact  .  The CTC estimates that costs associated  
               with developing and issuing the American Indian  
               languages credential will be minor and absorbable.  

           6.   Federal recognition  .  The Code of Federal Regulations  
               defines a federally recognized Indian Tribe as an Indian  
               or Alaska Native Tribe, band, nation, pueblo, village,  
               or community that the Secretary of the Interior  
               acknowledges to exist as an Indian Tribe pursuant to the  
               Federally Recognized Indian Tribe List Act of 1994.   
               Federally-recognized tribes have a  
               "government-to-government" relationship with the United  
               States and possess certain inherent powers of  
               self-government and entitlement to certain federal  
               benefits and services through the United States Bureau  
               of Indian Affairs.   
          Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians
          California Association of Tribal Governments


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          California Tribal Business Alliance
          Commission on Teacher Credentialing
          Elk Valley Rancheria
          Individual letters
          Inter-Tribal Council of California
          Ione Band of Miwok Indians
          Karuk Tribe
          Klamath-Trinity Joint Unified School District
          Lytton Band of Pomo Indians
          Morongo Band of Mission Indians
          Picayune Rancheria of the Chukchansi Indians
          Rumsey Band of Wintun Indians of California
          San Manual Band of Serrano Mission Indians
          Tribal Alliance of Sovereign Indian Nations
          Tubatulabals of Kern Valley
          Viejas Band of Kumeyaay Indians
          Winnemem Wintu Tribe

          None received.